Monday, June 29, 2009

Nightmare Journeys: Cancer in Canada

It is 5:20 am. I am still waking up and trying to get myself to breathe deeply after this particular nightmare. I am sitting in the dark at my kitchen table, with only the glow of the computer screen and the sound of the up-and-at-em birds to comfort me back to normal.

You know how sometimes you have dreams that can be explained and unfolded like a Law & Order story? It's almost as if you can sift through the evidence and find reasons for why you dreamed this or why you dreamed that? THAT was how this dream went. It's like there is a reason for each piece to this dream.

Let us begin...

I was in Canada. I was hanging out with my two friends, Tess and Steve. We were on this army base in this laboratory full of bubbling glass beakers and tall glass windows. Tess was filling out paperwork, and I was just kind of goofing off with the beakers and science tools. Then suddenly Steve was wearing a white lab coat, and he was getting up to go to the bathroom. He took something off the long wooden lab table – my leather journal. I remember thinking that I should take it back from him, because I knew that I had probably written about him in there. But he just smiled and would not hand it back. He walked out the door.

Tess and I were left to ourselves at the table. She was filling out this document that turned out to be a health form. Tess, they should know that I am American, right? Oh yeah, they should. So I got a different form. This one had two very terrifying propositions:

A. Allow us, under this Government Clause, to operate on your cancer.

B. If you do not agree to these terms, a journalist will be trained on how to operate on your cancer and your tumor will be removed.

What the fuck?

OK, so, I get it, suddenly it was apparent that both Tess and I had cancer, and we were at this army lab base to get it taken care of. Not a usual day, no, but the premise felt clear.

Steve came back. I had the distinct sense that he had taken my journal with himself to the restroom for some quiet reading time. He flopped the book back onto the table and motioned for me to go look at the lit wall where x-rays were being shown to patients. He had some photograph that turned out to be the insides of my abdomen.

It was weird because, up until now, I had thought that Tess and I were both suffering from breast cancer, but this must have been something else for me. Steve started to explain the game plan for my cancerous tumor, as though he had been medically trained in the time that he was away at the bathroom with my journal.

"See this tumor area here? We will have to go in and remove it, along with some bone, and then it is going to be surgically reinserted into your left forearm."

"But why?"

"This is just how we do it in Canada."


I started to panic, and I was looking for that medical form I had filled out. It seemed to me that I was getting different medical treatment because I was American. Tess was sitting at the table and she tilted her head in pity as she looked at me, as if she knew this were to be my demise all along. Meanwhile, she found out she had breast cancer, and she was patiently waiting to hear about the next steps she had to take.

Suddenly, a group of women walked in the lab door, and I recognized all of them. I was happy to see some familiar faces from the States – it was Laura, Shannon, Liz, Erica and Alissa – girls from my high school chamber choir. Apparently they were all here at this lab to get their cancer taken care of, too.

They all looked at me sort of like they knew something that I did not. I started feeling like they had been talking about my cancer. I looked over at Steve and Tess, and they were both silently staring back at me. Suddenly it dawned on me that I was the only person in the room who actually had cancer, and there was this sick realization that no one there had the actual intent to help me.

I was like a lab rat.

An experiment.

Tainted flesh for carving practice.

It was a sinister awakening.

From there I woke up at 5:00 am, and I was immediately aware (in real life) that my nostrils were just sucking air into my chest with only about a 50% ROI. I quickly hopped out of bed and started downing water and pacing the floor. I still feel like I cannot get enough air into my lungs, and I am feeling that untrustworthy feeling one only knows once medical diagnoses creep into one's blasé life on a lazy Thursday evening.

I could give you a reason for each piece to this nightmare journey – Reasons why my brain conjured up this bizarre concoction of events.

I hate that I am now having actual dreams about cancer. I would rather dream of being stuck on the back of a wild elephant who is trampling through the African forest, looking for food.

NOTE: I do not have cancer. This was just a dream. However, I don't doubt that some Canadian medical practices could be whack, and my friend Steve probably would read my journal on the toilet.

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